, 30 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
1. As promised, time for another Twitter Shiur!

Today's topic: Gun control.
2. The following is an updated version of a class I gave years ago. Sources and audio are available here:
3. Usual disclaimers apply. The following is not intended to be a comprehensive overview. Perhaps more importantly, nothing here should be taken as advocacy for any specific gun policy, a subject which is far beyond my expertise.
4. I will say that I think before people comment on gun policy, they should, at minimum, read @TCBurrus's excellent article, "Gun Policy is Hard."

Now, on to the sources.
5. The Bible and Talmud obviously never addressed guns specifically as guns didn't exist at the time. But like many other examples where science advances beyond the texts, we look for analogous cases to serve as precedents for contemporary application.
6. For example, while we don't have guns mentioned specifically, we do find discussions about weapons. Let's start w/this Mishnaic dispute on if one can carry weapons on Shabbat. This dispute depends on the perspective if weapons signify ornaments or something shameful
7. You'll notice there's an element of messianic eschatology here. Acc to the Sages, the reason why weapons are shameful is that in the future they will be unnecessary. Interestingly, the gemara gives the same reason to explain R. Eliezer's contradictory opinion.
8. The gemara continues trying compare in the attitude towards weapons with opinions regarding the messianic era. Specifically the opinion of Shmuel which states that the messianic era won't be *that* different from our own.
9. I point this out because any general attitude on weapons based on this source necessarily implies some appeal to a messianic eschatology. However, that's a conversation for another day.
10. We do find a rule derived from Pinhas that weapons are not allowed in a study hall. However, no further explanation is given.
11. Independent of general attitudes towards weapons, Jewish law affirms rights of self-defense and allows for exceptions for most rules when lives are in danger. The details are beyond our current scope, but I do feel it's worth mentioning in this context.
12. Contemporary gun policy discussions usually focus on responsibility and if the issue is more on the object or the person i.e. guns don't kill people, people do. This follows a classic Brisker analytical distinction between heftza/object and gavra/person
13. In general, Jewish law places primary responsibility and liability on the direct/primary actor. Humans are considered damage-prone and are expected to take their own precautions against causing damage
14. A key factor is agency. To my knowledge, the only time when someone is actionably liable for another's action is when the other person lacked mental capacity/agency and the damage was inevitable.
15. Also notice we have an important distinction between an action incurring liability in a human court vs. responsibility in the court of heaven. This is a critical distinction when it comes to causative damage.
16. Those who are of diminished mental capacity who cause damage on their own without direct prodding are exempt from all liability and responsibility.

Primary responsibility and liability for injury lies with humans who are deemed to have agency for their actions.
17. Thus, in the "guns vs. people" equation, the responsibility falls on the people more than the guns, and more on the direct actors than tertiary actors.
18. At the same time, the Sages were not unaware of the dangers posed by weapons or other dangerous objects. While they may not have imposed liability, they did enact *prohibitions* in order to prevent inevitable (or even likely) negative outcomes.
19. For example, here we find a prohibition against selling arms to certain people. Sellers are not liable in court for the actions of their buyers, but they cannot turn a blind eye either.
20. The gemara continues that this even applies to selling the *tools* to make weapons. There is also an acknowledgment that it's fine to sell weapons to the "good people" who use them to protect.
21. Aside from selling weapons, the Sages also discouraged (if not prohibited) owning dangerous items. Here we see a warning against owning a bad dog and even a rickety ladder due to the *potential* for harm.
22. The parallel here may be inexact bec a rickety ladder is dangerous bec it's defective for its core purpose. Functional weapons are dangerous but can also be used as intended for protection. (Defective weapons may be different)
23. Animals are also complicated bec even if they lack agency, they act on their own (See B. Bava Kamma 23b for more discussion on this point). On the other hand, functional weapons only fire w/some form of human intervention.
24. At any rate, what is clear is that even if a dangerous item may be owned, it is the responsibility of the owner to take steps to prevent injury. Even without *liability* there can still be *responsibility*
25. A critical part of the gun debate is *which* guns ought to be illegal. In this regard, I haven't found any guidance in rabbinic sources to help make this distinction.
26. Regular followers know I often criticize those who frame political policy in Jewish contexts bec it usually means distorting/manipulating Torah in support of one's politics.

For a change, I'd like to highlight someone who gets it right.
27. Here we find @ZackBergerMDPhD arguing for gun policy primarily based on health grounds. He does not say that Torah *mandates* gun policy only that Torah could *support* gun restrictions.
28. We have seen above why this is an entirely plausible position. The Sages already regulated against arms sales and owning dangerous household items. Saying Torah mandates gun control is, in my opinion, an overstep. Saying it's *compatible* with Torah is entirely valid.
29. Thank you for reading and have a lovely day. \fin.
30. Addendum: Because comparisons to Israel come up a lot, please read this by my friend Yael Shahar who is an *actual* gun owner in Israel
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